Jailed Danville man convicted for impersonating public defender
BRENTWOOD — A jailed Danville man who impersonated a public defender last June so he could call an inmate at another county jail was convicted of felony identity fraud by a judge on Wednesday, a legal first in New Hampshire.
John Bouraphael, 33, was sentenced to 1 to 2 years in state prison immediately after a bench trial in Rockingham County Superior Court.
Defense lawyer Stephen White argued for a suspended sentence, claiming no law had been broken because the New Hampshire Bar Association identification number was not protected information like a social security number.
“There’s no victim here. No damage done. We have a phone call (and) he got through the switchboard,” White argued in court on Wednesday.
Bouraphael was being held at the Rockingham County jail last June 1, awaiting trial on drug charges, when he used a three-way call allegedly set up by his girlfriend to speak with inmate Jacob Palo about who else inside the jail owed them commissary, according to investigators.
The call went on for several minutes undetected by Merrimack County corrections officers, prosecutors said.
A Rockingham County corrections officer later discovered Bouraphael’s call by reviewing recordings of outgoing jail calls.
Judge Kenneth McHugh disagreed with the defense’s assessment that the call was harmless, describing Bouraphael’s actions “extremely troubling and potentially very dangerous” because the ploy easily circumvented security at two county jails.
McHugh concluded that an attorney’s N.H. Bar identification number — found on nearly all state legal pleadings — was personal identifying information that allowed Bouraphael to pose as attorney Anthony Naro when he called the Merrimack County jail last June 1.
“The number that Attorney Naro has is not of his own creation,” McHugh said. “It’s assigned to him tangentially by his employer, the state of New Hampshire.”
A portion of Bouraphael’s phone call to the Merrimack County jail was played in court on Wednesday, demonstrating how he easily tricked two corrections officers.
“I heard my client was transferred over there,” Bouraphael says during the recording, after identifying himself as Naro. One corrections officer asked Bouraphael for the attorney pin number, and to spell Naro’s last name.
Palo was then taken out of protective custody so he could come to the phone.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Zaino argued for a 2 to 4 year prison sentence, saying that others considering a similar ruse should be warned by Bouraphael’s punishment.
While acknowledging that there was no other case in the state to compare it to, Zaino said Bouraphael’s actions exposed a serious security breach within the corrections system.
“Within a matter of minutes, he was on the phone with another inmate,” Zaino said.
The sentence will add at least another year to Bouraphael’s current 1½ to 4 year state prison sentence that he is serving on a felony drug conviction. The parole board denied his first bid for release in February.
White argued that Bouraphael had been a model inmate since his arrest on drug charges last December. But Zaino took issue with that assessment, noting Bouraphael had been twice convicted of selling drugs in the last decade, and had a criminal record between Massachusetts and New Hampshire that included theft, burglary, simple assault and unsworn falsification.